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posted on 05.20.09

"TV Party. The TV show that is a cocktail party, but which could be a political party." So read the tagline for this 1978-1982 New York City cable access show hosted by David Byrne/Jean-Luc Godard look-a-like Glenn O'Brien, and starring a cast of free-thinking Downtown personalities like Andy Warhol, Fab Five Freddy, and Chris Stein of Blondie. It was psychedelic, improvisational television at its finest. It was also David Letterman's favorite TV show.

Modeled after Hugh Hefner's Playboy After Dark but with more of an experimental aesthetic, TV Party was a bit like watching a wild-eyed homeless man have drug-induced fit in the center of your living room. Imagine this homeless man, however, swathed in impeccable 3-piece suits and flocked by a gaggle of fashion-forward starfuckers. Eccentric? Antithetical? Welcome aboard.

Among the guests over its 4 year run: DNA, The Ramones, Debbie Harry, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Bowie, George Clinton, The Clash. The format was inconsistent and constantly shifting, which proved to be one of the most delightful aspects of the show. Glenn O'Brien easily fell into the role of demented ringleader over this 10 ring circus of alternative ideology and carefully crafted chaos. The cubist, radical style was due in part to its avant-garde contributors, but the mass amounts of drugs being consumed on site surely contributed to the wackiness.

As a documentary, TV Party is light years away from quality filmmaking, but the original clips and Fellini-esque cast of characters are fascinating enough to overlook its technical shortcomings. Director Danny Wink was successful in collecting nearly every single founding cast and crew member for this DVD, and their colorful, "where are they now" interviews really sell the product. My only real complaint was that it could have been about 30 minutes shorter; the absurdity and lack of structure becomes dizzying after the first hour.

It's difficult to define TV Party in terms modern society would understand. It was TV magic, plain and simple, and something that would be a bit like a ship lost at sea in the midst of today's overdeveloped television industry with its seemingly endless array of networks, internet programming, and digital breakthroughs. My advice? Netflix this DVD and wallow in the excitement of a bygone era.

Or simply visit www.tvparty.org for your very own hand-me-down invitation to the most progressive party live television has ever thrown. Just be sure to keep an open mind.

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